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Looking back — and ahead — with the Wolves' big hires

Before I head off to some time off, let's take a look back at what was with Tuesday's 's new conference that introduced New Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau and new general manager Scott Layden and what will/could be here in the coming days and weeks:

•    Layden said he is committed to the Spurs and his current job as their assistant GM for another week, but expects to be back in Minnesota next week to start his new job and plans to hit the ground running.
He said he has been very involved with the Spurs’ draft planning, prep that will serve him well with the Wolves aimed at another top 5 pick this June probably.
“A lot,” he said about having worked ahead on the draft. “I’ve spent a lot of time around the world, looking at players. We’ll work on it right from Day One here. We’re get right into it. We’ll get right away into a lot of activities.”
He said so during a media scrum after Tuesday’s news conference, then added, “This is it. You won’t see me again until July.”
•    Thiboudeau is going about putting together a coaching staff and with Layden will determine a front-office structure. It’s probably likely Ryan Saunders remains on the staff and David Adelman could, too. Thibodeau’s relationship with Sidney Lowe goes back to those Albany teams in the CBA that Thibodeau used to visit looking to learn from Bill Musselman’s practice.
There’s no question Thibodeau will bring in some of his own assistants, though. Past assistants Ron Adams (Golden State), Ed Pinckney (Denver) and Andy Greer (Toronto) all had gotten other jobs this past year and some will stay where they are, but it’s a good bet that Greer ends up joining Thibodeau here after the Raptors are done in the playoffs.
Pinckney could, too, but it’s unlikely Adams leaves the Warriors.

* Thibodeau and Layden spoke in front of nearly every team employee and began meeting with players and the front office staff. I haven't heard any more about Milt Newton's future since last week, when the team indicated he could stay on in a capacity other than his general manager's position, if he so chooses.

Sam Mitchell already has moved on to other things, namely interviewing with Sacramento about its coaching job last week and appearing back on NBA TV as a studio analyst during playoff coverage this week.
•    Thibodeau also will decide on a training staff. Arnie Kander came here from Detroit on a one-year deal and whether he wants to return or Thibodeau wants him to return remains to be determined.


*     *     *
Thibodeau has the title of basketball operations, but he, Layden and Glen Taylor all have emphasized that decision making will be done primarily by consensus.
“For me personally, this is about alignment,” Thibodeau said. “It’s not about power, it’s not about any of that stuff. I’ve known Scott a long time. We’ve shared our philosophies with each other. We feel strongly about certain things. He was the person I really wanted.”
Thibodeau and Layden worked together for the Knicks more than 15 years ago.
“If you’re looking for credit, I think you’re in the wrong place,” Layden said. “This truly is a team sport. I’m here to do everything I can to help the team. I think Coach is that way. I think Glen Taylor is that way Sometimes with titles, the impression is you’re sitting in a room and no one can speak or only this guy can talk because he has a higher title. It doesn’t work like that, if you’re on the job every day. Believe me, Coach Thibs is committed. Every day he’s looking at this and working to make the team better. It’s not going to be anybody pulling out a business card and saying my title is more than yours. It’s about what’s good for the franchise, what’s in the best interest of the team.
“When I was in Utah, I had a relationship with Coach (Jerry) Sloan and I honestly don’t know what my title was, but I know his title was Coach. Other than that, I don’t know. Is he going to make the decision on this? Who’s going to pick up the mail? Trust me, you do what’s in the best interest of the Timberwolves and Glen Taylor.”

*     *     *
Four players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Tyus Jones – attended the news conference. Only Towns talked to the media afterward.
Here’s part of the exchange:
On meeting his new coach: “Just talking about how great we think this team can be and how we need to improve.”
Did he talk to any Bulls’ players about Thibodeau and his demanding reputation: “I haven’t talked to anybody about it. I’m just going to come in and learn on my own. Obviously, we all know how successful he has been, so just hoping that success comes over to us as well.”
You heard him list all the great players he has coached, is it reassuring to know how he’s committed to making players great: “Absolutely, that’s one thing with all that experience comes a lot of knowledge. Hopefully with all the knowledge he has garnered through his career, I can use it to expand my game and evolve and add my name to that list.”
What do you think the perception is across the league of this franchise now: “It’s just one of those things: We want to continue to lean back on Glen Taylor our owner and go in the right direction. When Flip was here, it was an awesome, awesome time for Minnesota. Last year with Sam was another step towards success. We’re just following in Glen’s footsteps right now and his guidance and hoping this team gets where we want this team to be.”
Is the stability of two guys with five-year contracts welcome after last season’s instability: “You know what, it is for me. I love stability. The ability to know who you’re going to have every year, it brings a sense of relief and comfort. Like I said, we’re just following Glen Taylor’s direction and going on the same path.”
Did you have input in the selection process: No, I think Glen knew that wasn’t my time or place or my practice. For me, I play the game of basketball.”
How did you find out? “I think we all found out, on ESPN. I was in Mexico.”
*       *        *
Thibodeau was in a reminiscing mood during Tuesday’s introduction. He talked about the two “amazing” seasons he spent as Bill Musselman’s assistant during the Wolves’ first two years as an expansion team, recalled fondly about playing before 40,000-plus at the Metrodome that first year and remembered a team short on NBA talent but long on determination and grit because “they played extremely hard, extremely smart and extremely together. That resonated with Minnesota fans.”
He also recalled the passing those 25 years.
“Many things have changed since then,” he said, “most notably my hair.”
Then he mentioned a long-lost photo brought back these last days that shows off a fabulous mullet he sported back in the day.
“I thought that had been buried in the archives long ago,” he said. “My nephews and niece are killing me, so I guess it’s still out there.”
He also told a story about original owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner and how the two business partners came to make decisions together. It’s clear he feels an affinity for the parts both men played in giving him his first NBA chance.
I remember the day Wolfenson died in 2013: I texted Thibodeau that afternoon asking if he’d offer some remembrances, thinking it was a long shot because the Bulls were set to play about four hours later and I know how he is with game preparation.
About a half hour later, he called, full of stories and laughter, too. A simple gesture, but I’ll always remember that.
He also recalled coming into Target Center as an NBA assistant with New York and Houston to play against Kevin Garnett and the Wolves.
“I sat on the opposing bench and knew how hard it was to come in here and get a win,” he said. “This place was rocking. The team played tough, Garnett was incredible and the support for the team was incredible. That puts us where we are today, with some of the best sports fans in the country. We feel they deserve to have a winning team. We’re going to put everything we have into each and every day, to make sure we do everything possible to give that to them.”

*    *      *
Thibodeau visited 13 teams during his season unemployed and observed everything from the atmospheres pre- and post-practice to how management and coaches worked together. After the way his time in Chicago ended, he paid particular attention to what he called “synergy” between the two in places like San Antonio, Boston and Golden State.
He visited San Antonio twice, once in the preseason and then later in the regular season. Layden was – still is, for a few more days – the assistant GM there and he said neither he nor Thibodeau gave a single thought then to what might become.
“It wasn’t like we sat in dark red-leather booths and said, `Should we go here?’ “ Layden said. “We’re just good friends. I’m glad it worked out like it did. When we were in San Antonio together, who knew the Minnesota job would be open and no way we knew we’d be together. But we knew we were good friends and I was cheering for him.
“I had an unbelievable job. I think how lucky I am. To be in San Antonio for four years is an incredible education. To be around Pop (Gregg Popovich) and R.C. (Buford), these two guys are shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame…
“Their process and the way they do has been eye-opening for me, I’ve been fortunate to be around great leaders. I’ve been fortunate to be around great organizations. San Antonio, it’s a special place. To be truthful, I don’t know how I got the job. I’m just thankful I could spend that time with that group.

*     *       *
Thibodeau likes to say you’re a sum of your experiences and on Tuesday he thanked and listed so many people he deemed responsible for making him who he is.
He listed first off Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, whom he thanked for giving him his first NBA head-coaching opportunity (even if his five years there ended rather nastily).
He included head coaches for whom he worked: Doc Rivers in Boston, Jeff Van Gundy in New York and Houston, Don Chaney in New York, John Lucas in Philadelphia and San Antonio, Jerry Tarkanian in San Antonio, Musselman in Minnesota.
He listed influential assistant coaches Brendan Malone and Ron Adams – “to name a few” – with whom he worked as well as Team USA bosses and colleagues Mike Krzyzewski, Jerry Colangelo, Jim Boeheim and Monty Williams.
And as for the players: KG, David Robinson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Pao Gasol, Joakim Noah, among them.
“When you’re around great players like that, it’s a great benefit to you and you learn a lot from them,” he said.
He also thanked his mom and his brothers and sisters for their “unconditional support.”

*     *      *
Thibodeau says he wants to meet with each player in person, rather than on the phone. That may take some doing with such players as Ricky Rubio, Nemanja Bjelica and Gorgui Dieng already home in Europe.
“I’m trying to track them down,” he said. “I’ve got to get the real phone number. Right now, I’m on the fourth numbers. But trust me, I’ll get there. I’ll get to that very shortly. I want to meet them in person rather than talk on the phone or email. I have a better shot with email. I have the real numbers. That’s my next move.”

*      *       *

The next big notable dates on both Thibodeau’s and Layden’s calendar:
The NBA draft camp in Chicago, the second week in May.
The NBA draft lottery is May 17. The Wolves ended the regular season slotted to draft fifth overall in June. With all that’s swirling around them right now, maybe we’ll see then if the franchise’s luck really has changed.

Wolves' coaching search to include Mark Jackson

After interviewing Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy and at least discussing the job with Scott Brooks, the Wolves on Wednesday will interview former Golden State coach Mark Jackson for their coaching vacancy, according to a person with knowledge of their search.

Jackson was a finalist for the Wolves job in 2009 when newly hired David Kahn was searching for a coach to replace interim coach Kevin McHale. The former NBA point guard was hired by Golden State two years later for his first NBA head-coaching job and he had a 52.6 winning percentage during three seasons leading the Warriors to 51 victories and to the cusp of what they've become in his final season there, 51-31.

Like Van Gundy, Jackson currently is an analyst for ESPN's NBA coverage.

The Wolves are searching for both a coach and a basketball-operations boss to permanently replace interim head coach Sam Mitchell and general manager Milt Newton, both of whom asssumed new duties last fall after Flip Saunders took a medical leave of absence in September and died in October five months after he diagnosed with cancer.

They likely will hire one man for both jobs. Thibodeau appears to remain the frontrunner, with Van Gundy next.

The Associated Press first reported that the Wolves interview process will include Jackson.